The New Google: Internet Giant Opens Up About Real-Time and Local Search, Cloud Computing, and Data Liberation

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you’re heading. It’s not based solely on keywords in a search box. We want to bring [that mobile information] to the forefront.” A current example of this is Google Goggles, which lets you take a picture of a logo, landmark, or location, and get information about it instantly.

Maslan says Google’s key differentiator in local search is comprehensiveness—being “open to all sources,” which he says is quite difficult technically. It includes being “actively global” and not just indexing information from key metro areas, for instance. “The scale that Google has in mapping assets and geo-coding assets and Web understanding are the core things,” he says.

I took this to mean we’ll soon see things like Google maps and listings in many more locations and languages around the world, and better accuracy in keeping up with local businesses opening, closing, or moving. “We’re very clear on where we’re doing well,” Maslan says. “We have small teams fanatical about doing it right.”

Cloud-based applications. This is about using software that’s running on remote servers, rather than sitting on your desktop, for everyday tasks like e-mail, scheduling, and managing documents. It’s part of Google’s broader strategy in cloud computing—the buzz phrase that essentially means consumers, businesses, and organizations renting computer power and data storage over the Internet because it’s cheaper and more efficient for certain applications.

Ken Norton, a Google senior product manager (and Boston University alum and former entrepreneur), talked with me about Google Apps and the company’s cloud computing strategy. Norton’s team works specifically on Google Calendar, but Google Apps also includes Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs, and Google Sites. “The Web has won in terms of how applications will be consumed,” he says.

The key advantage for Google on this front is scale and infrastructure. “We have so many servers and data centers around the world, we can run them cheaply and efficiently,” Norton says. And that kind of advantage filters down to individual devices, he says, because it “opens up possibilities” for consumers to use Web software from any type of device, be it a smartphone, netbook, or conventional laptop.

Google’s cloud computing efforts are focused on two levels: the first is software like Google Apps that is marketed directly to end users (corporations and consumers); the second is App Engine, a cloud platform for software developers to build their Web-based products efficiently. (You can read more about App Engine in this Xconomy feature from last spring.)

I asked Norton what to expect on the cloud front next year. “We’re constantly doing … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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